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DIY: How to Mat Your Own Prints

If you've started your art collection, you've probably encountered the high costs of having your first pieces framed and matted. Or, if you're thinking about starting your collection, you may be anxious about those costs. Either way, don't be fearful. Although a beautiful frame can really make a piece of art stand out, if you've chosen something that is unique and that is unequivocally "you," that alone will make the artwork. So, all you need is a simple, inexpensive frame, and to learn to mat your own prints.

To get the supply list and learn the steps that I learned from the small object,


  • a mat cutter (handheld or not)
  • a piece of acid-free matboard
  • your frame
  • a pencil
  • a box cutter
  • a straight edge ruler

Here are the steps:

  1. Use the box cutter to cut out the size mat you need, depending on your frame size. If your frame came with a paper insert, that is a nice guide to use when cutting. From here on out, always work from the back of your matboard so you don’t mark up the front of it.
  2. The border measurements are the same on the top, left, and right. The bottom border should be larger to give the piece visual weight. Mat borders need to be at least 2" thick, and even wider for larger work.

    To figure out what your measurements should be, follow this example. If the mat is 8" in width and the artwork is 4.25" in width, the window of the mat should be 4" so that it covers the edges of the artwork somewhat, to hold it in place. Divide the window size by two to calculate the width of left and right mat borders. In this case it would be 2". So, the left, right, and top borders will all be 2" (since they need to be the same) and the bottom will be what's left over.

  3. On the back of your mat, draw lines with your pencil to mark where the window will be, but be sure to extend the lines longer than necessary, so you can see where the corners cross.
  4. Line up your mat cutter on the guidelines you marked. Position the mat cutter so that the angled blade is pointing toward the center of the artwork. Overcut each corner by about 1/4" to ensure that you get a crisp, clean corner. Push hard enough to make sure your blade is cutting through to the front of the mat.
  5. After you’ve cut all four sides, your window should just slip right out. Put your mat into your frame, and your artwork behind the mat. Then tape your artwork with a small piece of duct tape on the top side to the back of the mat, and consult DearSugar for how to best display your awesome matted and framed art. Fini!

For more detailed steps, check out the small object's instructions.


GeriAnne1932 GeriAnne1932 10 years
If anyone lives near a campus bookstore or art supply store, they often have mat cutters you can use when you purchase the mat bored there. So if you are prepared with what you want to do, you can do it there and save yourself the money of buying your own cutter...
beingtazim beingtazim 10 years
i usually just use an exacto knife, but it doesn't work so well as a cool mat cutter!
ond ond 10 years
A few months ago, at the art supply store, I inquired into the pros and cons of using a handheld mat cutter. The art supply store worker guy spun tales of expensive stacks of ruined mat board and frustration. I couldn't justify the purchase of a cutter with a guide (over $100), so I gave up on cutting my own mats. the small object's instructions make me want to give it a try. I think I'll practice on some old junky mat board first.
SummerBaby SummerBaby 10 years
i love this idea! but my walls would be filled with black and white i love them sooooo much!
oriav9 oriav9 10 years
I want to do this. It looks great.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 10 years
Haha I need to do this!
aimeeb aimeeb 10 years
I've done this before.
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